Swiss voters have blocked foreign betting sites in a reform of gambling law, and overwhelmingly opposed the #Vollgeld Sovereign Money Initiative. The Canton of Valais also decided against hosting the Olympics.
Swiss voters overwhelmingly backed a new online gambling law aimed at preventing addiction, and requiring gaming companies to be certified by the Swiss government in order to operate in the country and online.
The Gambling Act, which has already been passed by both houses of parliament, received the support of 73 percent of voters who cast ballots. It is set to take effect next year.
The result is a crushing defeat for the people who collected 50,000 signatures to put the measure to a public vote. They claim the new law amounts to censorship of the internet.
"This sets a very dangerous precedent," Luzian Franzini, co-president of The Greens' youth wing and leader of the campaign against the new law, said before the vote.
For the first time Swiss firms will be able to offer online gambling, while foreign-based companies will be shut out of the market.
Franzini criticized the government for "methods worthy of an authoritarian state," with a measure that he claimed was "censorship of the internet."
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Controlling gambling addiction
Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga defended the new law, calling it "indispensable" to ensure that everyone adheres to strict rules, like controlling gambling addiction.
Some 75,000 people suffer some form of gambling addiction in the Alpine country of 8.3 million people, according to the Addiction Switzerland Research Institute (ASRI) in Lausanne.
By limiting gaming sites to Swiss-based companies the government says the related tax revenue will help fund anti-addiction measures, as well as other social and cultural programs.
Swiss gamblers spend about 250 million Swiss Francs ($255 million; €215 million) on foreign betting sites that to date have contributed nothing to the Swiss coffers.
Minister Sommaruga said that the new gambling law would "allow us to stop this hemorrhaging."
Banking status quo
A radical plan that would have transformed Switzerland's banking landscape was overwhelmingly rejected by voters.
About 76 percent rejected the Sovereign Money Initiative which would have put the Swiss National Bank in charge of all money creation and radically altered the banking system, Swiss broadcaster SRF reported after the polls closed. The Swiss government and the SNB opposed the initiative.
Potential risks to the Swiss economy by introducing a "Vollgeld" system convinced voters to reject the proposal, leaving private banks with the right to create money.
"We are pleased, this would have been an extremely damaging initiative," said Heinz Karrer, president of business lobby Economiesuisse.
Read more: March referendum on public broadcasting
No to Sion 2026 Winter Olympics
Also, in the Canton of Valais, 54 percent of voters rejected a bid to host the 2026 Winter Olympics in its capital Sion.
"As athletes, we accept the defeat," Swiss Olympic president Juerg Stahl said in a statement.
This leaves Cortina d'Ampezzo in Italy and Graz in Austria as the two Alpine regions seeking to host the 2026 games. Calgary in Canada, Sapporo in Japan, Stockholm in Sweden and Erzurum
in Turkey are also presenting bids which will be narrowed down in the first round later in the year. The host city will be decided in September 2019.
bik/jm (AFP, Reuters, dpa)